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Onions become currency in Philippines store as part of food bank project

A retail store in the Philippines accepted onions as "payment" for select in-store items on Saturday as part of an onion-raising drive for a "community pantry" or food bank project.

MANILLA:

A retail store in the Philippines accepted onions as “payment” for select in-store items on Saturday as part of an onion-raising drive for a “community pantry” or food bank project.

A branch of the Japan Home Center accepts one onion in exchange for the customers’ chosen item. “Every customer has a limit of three item purchases only. All collected onions will be used in our community pantry,” the store said in a social media post, adding that “any kind and any size of onion are acceptable.”

The promo dubbed “pay with sibuyas (the Tagalog word for onion)” is valid only for this Saturday. “Heeded the onion-raising drive of Japan Home, where onions are legal tender for one day only,” a customer said after buying items from the store.

“Onion proceeds will be used for a community pantry project — fun and for a cause,” quoted the customer.

The “community pantry” first sprouted in April 2021 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, when a small bamboo cart containing sweet potatoes, vegetables, and canned foods appeared on the street in a Quezon City suburb.

The trolley came with a cardboard sign that said, “Give what you can, take what you need.” The movement, sustained by people’s donations, sparked similar “pantries” in the Philippine capital and provinces, feeding the poor.

The price of onions remains high in the Philippines, forcing people and fast-food restaurants to ditch onions in their hamburgers or recipes.

The government is carrying out a programme to help onion farmers increase their yield to stabilize the supply and bring down the price of onions.

Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, also the agriculture secretary, stressed the need to increase the areas planted for onions and to give farmers onion seeds for propagation.

He has lamented the lack of cold chain facilities in his country, affecting onion supply and prices.

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that onion production in the third quarter of 2022 was recorded at 23.30 metric tons. Also, the Department of Agriculture’s 2022 supply and demand outlook data showed that the country has a 120 percent sufficiency level with 312,830 metric tonnes of onions.

Per capita consumption for onion is at 2.341 kg a year per the statistics agency data, with an estimated demand of 21,000 metric tonnes per month.

As of December 15, 2022, the total stock inventory of locally produced red onions in cold storage nationwide is 2,209.45 metric tonnes. There were no stocks of yellow onions and imported red onions in cold storage facilities.

On January 10, the agriculture department announced importing 22,000 metric tons of onions to address high prices and supply shortages.

Based on the agriculture department’s daily monitoring of 13 markets in Metro Manila in January, retail prices of onions stood at 400 pesos (roughly 7.39 US dollars) to 550 pesos (approximately 10.16 dollars) per kilogram.

At some point last year, onion prices fetched over 700 pesos (roughly 12.92 dollars) per kilogram. IANS

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